Gamers are a demanding bunch. We want a full game experience (but not too long); we want adult storytelling and grown-up content; we want aliens, guns, and explosions. And when do we want it? Now.
The recent news that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has been delayed from February 2016 to August 2016 was disappointing, in that I’m sure we all want to get our hands on the title after the great experiences that the first game provided, but it’s also gratifying, in that Eidos Montreal and Square Enix have faith in their customers to be able to discern something good from something great, and feel that delaying their game for six months could potentially turn one into the other.
It’s natural to feel disappointed about not getting something you want for another few months than you thought (or, in the case of very, very extended delays as in Team Fortress 2, The Last Guardian,
Half-Life 3, or Duke Nukem Forever, years after), but our first reaction should not be to lash out at people who are not only making something you like, but are also wholly undeserving of you bashing them just for them trying to make something better.
A common theme on some of the more… well, childish parts of the Internet is that game developers owe you something, and they owe it to you on your schedule. This is obviously not the case. If a developer feels that they need more time to get project X into as good a shape as they think it can be, and their publisher agrees, then that’s something we should be applauding. We’ve seen the very real results that can occur when a developer tries to rush a project, and are either unwilling or unable to delay it to get it into a form worthy of release. The recent meltdown of Batman: Arkham Knight on the PC in particular is a abject lesson in this, and the irony is that Arkham Knight was itself delayed from October 2014 to June 2015. It seems that Rocksteady and WB quite severely underestimated the amount of work that the PC version in particular required, given what happened subsequently.
And let’s not forget: whilst a project is in development and not offered for sale, they are receiving precisely $0 in revenue from the game’s sales. Many developers may feel that whilst they actually need more time to make a title the best it can be, their financial situation may not allow this to happen. Many games come out with severe issues at launch that a developer is aware of but cannot fix with the resources available to them. They ship a broken product with the intention of patching out the issues down the line. Even bigger game publishers do things like this. A game like Assassin’s Creed: Unity comes to mind as a game that had quite extreme problems at launch that necessitated multiple patches post-release to get into something that resembled a playable state. So don’t just think it’s the indies that do this; the big players very much are part of the problem just as much as smaller developers. Many people playing the recent PC release of Mortal Kombat X couldn’t even get past the launch screen of the game; when it comes to “broken”, that’s about as clear an example as you can get.
So the next time you read something has been pushed back (please don’t delay Dishonored 2 or The Division – please), spare a thought for the group of people who have considered their options and decided that this is the best thing – for them and for you. They don’t want their name to be associated with a sub-par product, and they don’t want you to buy something that they consider to be anything less than their best work. Maybe they’ll be right (BioShock Infinite), maybe they’ll be wrong (Arkham Knight – and really really wrong at that) but they’re going into it with the best of intentions. We owe it to them to wait and see what the finished product looks like before readying our pitchforks.